[Tagging] Proposal to Change Road Classification, Road Surface, Road Condition, and Add Number of Lanes

Alberto Alberto_Nogales at msn.com
Sat Mar 5 14:25:54 UTC 2016

Dear OSM staff, contributors, and users:

I have read the definitions, concepts and description that OSM uses to characterize (tag) roads and noticed that OSM does not establish the difference between inter-urban (rural) roads and urban roads (comprising mostly avenues and streets). Therefore, I propose to replace the existing OSM road classification with a "functional classification" that would allow OSM "to better model and better visualize" the actual road network. I have noticed that you have been challenged to adapt to the differences found in each country. If the following classification is adopted, it will be a "universal standard" and you will not need to adopt different criteria for developed or developing countries, like the OSM example for East Africa.

It would be useful to define a road class (paved/unpaved) and a road surface type (concrete, asphalt, surface treatment, gravel, earth). I also propose to reduce the options for road condition to only five categories defined by the need for maintenance or rehabilitation. I can provide a technical definition using the International Roughness Index (IRI) for paved and unpaved roads.

I am fully aware that these changes present a major challenge for the existing, coding, renderer, editors, etc. However, I am confident that introducing these changes (and adding the number of lanes) will not only simplify the mapping tasks, but would substantially improve the quality of the OMS products, particularly given the fact that many other layers are highly dependent on the quality of the road network.

I am a Civil Engineer (MS Stanford) with training on urban planning (MIT) with more than 20 years of experience working with international organizations like the World Bank and the African Development Bank on roads and highways in more than 50 countries, but mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, and Eastern Europe.

Alberto Nogales



Rural (Inter-Urban) Roads - Located outside of urban areas

Classified Road Network. Generally falls under the responsibility of the National, Provincial (State), Municipal/Local Government to build, operate and maintain.

1. Primary Roads - National, Main, Trunk Roads outside of urban areas that connect the main population and economic centers of the country. Typically under the responsibility of the National Government and with high levels of traffic.

2. Secondary Roads - Regional, State, Provincial Roads are the main feeder routes into, and provide the main links between primary roads. Typically under the responsibility of the Provincial Government and with medium levels of traffic.

3. Tertiary Roads - Municipal, Local, Rural Roads that connect the smaller towns to intermediate cities. Typically under the responsibility of the Local Governments and with low levels of traffic.

Unclassified Road Network.

4. Unclassified Roads. Mostly private roads or of unknown responsibility to build and operate. Typically maintained by local communities or by private mining, forestry, or agricultural enterprises.

Urban Network- Located within the boundaries of urban areas

1/2/3. Highway. [Expressway, Motorways] Parts of the Primary, Secondary or Tertiary Roads that go across an urban area. Parts of the National, Provincial Network. Expressways with limited access. Typically no pedestrian or bicycle access.

5. Arterial. [Route, Boulevard] Connecting key areas of urban activity with higher traffic levels and longest trip lengths. High speeds with minimum interference to through movements, like those used by bus routes.

6. Collector. [Avenue] Provides land access and traffic circulation within urban areas. Penetrates neighborhoods, collecting and distributing traffic between neighborhoods and arterial network. Medium traffic levels with moderate trip lengths. Medium speeds with frequent interference to through movements.

7. Local. [Street] Road used to provide access to adjacent land and to the collector network and to higher order of streets. Lower traffic level with through traffic deliberately discouraged. Low speed.

8. Path. [Lane, Passage] Narrow mostly single lane in between buildings or behind a row of houses without sidewalks. Single direction and lowest level of traffic and lowest speed.

Add Classification for "Non-Motor Vehicles" that will not use the term road nor highways, like bicycle lane, pedestrian paths, etc.

Total Road Network = Primary + Secondary + Tertiary + Unclassified + Urban


1. Paved

1.1 Concrete

1.2 Asphalt

1.3 Surface Treatment

2. Unpaved

2.1 Gravel

2.2 Earth


1. Very Good. Roads do not require any capital costs. Recently completed and/or very good quality and high standard.

2. Good. Roads largely free of defects and require only minor maintenance work.

3. Fair. Road with defects that require periodic maintenance like resurfacing or regravelling, or grading.

4. Poor. Roads require partial rehabilitation, strengthening or partial reconstruction.

5. Very Poor.  Road requires full rehabilitation or full reconstruction.

D. NUMBER OF LANES AND/OR ROAD WIDTH. The functional classification can be further improved by providing the number of lanes and traffic flow direction, and the width of the main carriageway. it is also useful to indicate if the road is physically divided or not by a median or other. As for the urban roads indicate if the roads have sidewalks or not.

1. 1 LANE

2. 2 LANES

3. 3 LANES

4. 4 LANES

5. 5 LANES

6. 6  or more LANES
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